Thursday, May 15, 2008

Champagne Stoppers

I’ve noticed that one reason people don’t buy more champagne or sparkling wine is that they often feel obligated to drink the entire bottle. With a still wine, you can just put the cork back in, but with sparkling wines, there are the bubbles to worry about.

There’s actually nothing to fear — all you need is a good champagne stopper. At home (alone, alas), I typically drink half a bottle of champagne a day (I’m not nearly as big a lush as some people believe), and save the other half for the next day. This is partly to moderate my consumption, but more importantly, I find that many young champagnes are actually more interesting after being opened for a day. Even when I owned a wine bar, I was never afraid to pour champagnes by the glass, as I found that young champagnes could easily last two or sometimes even three days if properly stoppered (although between the guests and the staff, they rarely lasted that long!)

There are several different types of inexpensive stoppers available. In the photo above, the big blue one at the top is the simplest model: you push it down and little teeth inside grasp the edge of the bottle. Going clockwise, the next one is slightly more sophisticated: you push it down and screw it shut, ensuring a better seal. Less aesthetically attractive but perhaps even more efficacious is the clamp model, with a hinged clip that grabs the neck of the bottle, keeping the whole thing firmly in place. (By the way, this is the only one that works on certain irregularly shaped bottles, such as Dom Pérignon or Comtes de Champagne. Not that, you know, we’re putting stoppers on those every day.) Then there’s the bright blue thing that looks like a UFO — it has two arms that swing down to grasp the bottle. My favorite one, however, and the one that I use most often, is the last, which has a tight, spring-loaded rubber seal and two little flanges on the hinged portions that grip the lip of the bottle. Plus it’s made of shiny metal and it’s pretty. You can find these at most wine stores or order them easily online.


Louise said...

Very helpful post. Though I doubt it will make much of dent on my consumption... still, it's nice to dream. I'm curious, do you have a view on squirting inert gas into the bottle before stoppering?

David H

Vanessa said...

I'm wondering the same thing. Have you found success with either the vacuum pump or inert gas? Does it matter? With still wine, I tend to make a feeble attempt to remove all that pesky air via a hand pump if there is anything left in the bottle (rare, but it happens).

Anonymous said...

Sometimes less is more:

In the 1950s my grandfather owned a cleverly designed stopper that I'd love to be able to buy today.

Two metal flanges gripped opposite sides of the bottle top; you then pressed down on a centered plunger, which expanded a small thick salmon-colored rubber balloon down into the bottle, creating an airtight seal. It took a very strong thumb to succeed.

(Don't know if rubber would be the best choice of materials these days, though.)

Peter Liem said...

I've clearly seen the benefits of an inert gas such as argon on still wines, but I haven't seen the point for sparkling wines. It's something about the bubbles. I think a plain old stopper works just fine.

wayiwalk said...

The blue one in the foreground looks like a pacifer - I think that would would be terrific as it could do double duty.

I guess with champagne - you wouldn't want to lower the pressure in the bottle, as in the vacuum - that would only enhance the wine getting flatter as more dissolved CO2 comes out of solution.

I think what you'd really want is to put it under a little pressure, sort of like those home-use seltzer gadgets I remember my parents used back in the 70's. Basically had a CO2 cartridge and pressurized the water in the container....downside of applying that to champy is throwing the whole thing out of balance, but maybe adding just a touch and sealing it would help the champy hold it's bubbles!

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Anonymous said...

I'm wondering the same thing. Have you found success with either the vacuum pump or inert gas? Does it matter? With still wine, I tend to make a feeble attempt to remove all that pesky air via a hand pump if there is anything left in the bottle (rare, but it happens).
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